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Workplace discrimination bill approved by Missouri lawmakers

Anyone who suffers discrimination in the workplace has already had to walk a hard road. Now, the Missouri House has approved a workplace discrimination bill that raises the threshold of proof in these types of lawsuits, making finding the right attorney even more important for victims.

HB 1219 was passed in an 89-68 vote in the Missouri House this month despite strong opposition from many lawmakers who say the new law reversed civil rights gains that were not easy to obtain. The bill raises the threshold from "contributing factor" to "motivating factor" when proving that discrimination led to the wrongful termination of an employee.

This new threshold would not only affect wrongful termination lawsuits, but other kinds of discrimination suits such as ones in which an employee was denied a promotion. Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City claimed that the passing of the bill results in "making [discriminatory] behavior easier to get away with."

Those who favored the bill said that the motivation behind passing it had much to do with making the state more business-friendly and would mimic federal discrimination laws.

Not only does the bill alter the threshold of proof, but it places a cap on the amount of both compensatory and punitive damages that a victim can recover. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate victims for damages incurred, and include repayment for lost wages, medical bills, other expenses and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded as a penalty to an employer whose behavior went beyond negligence and into reckless, depraved or intentional behavior.

The new caps on compensatory and punitive damages depend on the size of the affected employer:

6-100 employees: Cap of $50,000
100-200 employees: Cap of $100,000
200-500 employees: Cap of $200,000
500 or more employees: Cap of $300,000

Regardless of what stricter standards are enacted, people who have been discriminated against have the law on their side. An experienced discrimination attorney will not only fight for their rights, but help victims of discrimination obtain the compensation that they deserve.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Missouri House Approves Workplace Discrimination Bill," Wes Duplantier, Feb. 13, 2012

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